Oh look Mabel! It’s a yellow bellied sapsucker. Or is it an orange breasted titmouse? Hell, we don’t know what it is. We’re no ornithologists. Well, neither is David Akoubian, but he knows a lot more than we do about birds and how to get them to pose for you.
This video on making a backyard bird photography studio, is courtesy of Tamron and wildlife photographer David Akoubian. And you don’t need to be a Bird Nerd to enjoy it.
David is a well known photographer who gives workshops and lectures on wildlife, travel and landscape photography all over the country. His photos speak for themselves.
Check out his website:
David has turned his backyard into a portrait studio for birds. No kidding! He created and environment that attracts birds, then he gets them to pose naturally in front of beautiful backgrounds.
You can do something similar. You don’t even need to have a real backyard! You can turn any outdoor space into a bird photography studio.
Here are a few things you should know about this video:
This video is of an hour long webinar, but don’t be frightened off. It’s very good. We have the attention span of a flea, and we watched the whole video without nodding off, or even daydreaming.
It starts out with a two minute discussion between Tamron’s webinar host and David. The next 20 minutes is spent on the set up, clever tips, shortcuts, and the history of his backyard studio. David shows a series of photo of his “studio” set-up. These pictures aren’t stunning works of art, but visuals of what has worked well for him, and a necessary part of the video. You may be wondering if this guy has any good pictures. Just wait, because HE DOES! The rest of the video shows examples of his bird photos, and they are stunning. In the last few minutes of the video, David answers questions written in by the webinar participants. These are good questions and we found them worth watching.
We are pretending that people have been clamoring to watch this video and have been hounding us with their questions.
Before we get into the Question and Answer section. We need to THANK Tamron for sponsoring this blog post and video.
Here are the eight most commonly asked pretend questions about backyard bird photography:
1. Why should I give a rip about bird photography?
Uh...what else do you have going on right now? It can be a whole lot more rewarding than putting together a jigsaw puzzle, or crocheting toilet paper roll covers when there’s no toilet paper. And unless you have a pack of wolves living in your backyard, you can become a true wildlife bird photographer. It’s pretty easy to do, especially when it’s up to you on how simple or elaborate your set up should be.
2. What camera equipment do I need for good bird pictures?
So glad you asked! You need a camera, a lens and a tripod or monopod.
Here’s a coincidence. We have all of those things at Horn Photo! Give us your stimulus money, and we’ll set you up! Now, if you need your stimulus money to buy food, consider this: Food comes and goes (if you know what we mean). Camera equipment won’t end up getting flushed down the toilet. Here’s our point: You can eat and have camera equipment. Here’s how: Most of the birds that come into your yard are delicious, when prepared properly. For example, you can feed a family of .05 with just two adult robins.
Back to equipment: You need a long lens. The longer the better. And the faster the better. You should use a tripod, but it is not necessary in all cases. Watch the video for specifics. David shows the camera, lenses, tripod, monopod, and tripod head that he uses. You may already have most or all of what you need.
3. What if I don’t know anything about birds?
Do you know what a sparrow looks like?
How about a mourning dove?
You’re welcome. Now you know about birds.
Not to worry. You will start learning what the different birds are that come to your backyard studio. There’s this thing called Google……..
If you create an environment that birds want to be in, the common birds will come first. Then the more uncommon ones will come. How do we know that? Because David said so. And we believe him.
It is important that you learn what is best for the specific birds you want to attract. Otherwise you may be taking pictures of little hummingbird corpses.
The birds all have little bird personalities, and you may be surprised at how interesting their habits can be. Remember your grandmother regaling you with fascinating stories about the birds she watched from her kitchen window? Don’t you want to be just like her? Of course you do.
4. How do I attract birds?
What kind of pervert are you?!!! Stick to your own species for God’s sake.
Perhaps we misunderstood. One should never jump to conclusions.
You will attract birds just by adding bird feeders to you yard. You have to put bird feed in them! That’s the trick! (You wouldn’t want to go to Cracked Pepper and get an empty plate, would you?)
There’s all sorts of bird feeders. You can buy them, or make some out of grandma’s old bedpan. Birds just want what’s in them. There’s more to it, though. That’s why you should watch the video.
5. How do I get a bird to stay still?
It’s not quite as simple as yelling, “Hey Birdie! Pull up a perch and stick around for awhile!” Bird feeders and other backyard features attract the birds, but a place for birds to perch is a crucial part of the set-up. David explains all this in detail. It’s pretty simple, really. You can create a perch out of old branches, wood scrap, or Grampa’s old wooden leg that you just can’t bring yourself to throw in the trash. Put it to good use!
David shows his very cool trick of choosing gnarled branches that have small crevices and holes in them. He presses suet in some of the holes and crevices that are out of sight from the camera. A bird will perch and pick away at the suet, leaving you plenty of time to get some great shots. The video shows all sorts of ideas.
6. What should I have in the background?
What’s behind the perch? The background! You may be limited to your neighbors dumpster, or you may have enough room for trees, shrubs, flowers. Whether it’s a leafy, flowery, or trashy background, you can make it work with the proper lens and distance from the perch.
David shows his examples of backgrounds that he has in his backyard. Some were already there and some he planted.
Consider what types of background colors and textures you want in your bird shots. Naturally, you will want good bokeh. Your distance from the subject, lens length and settings will determine how bokeh-ee your background will be.
7. What settings are best for bird photography?
You may be surprised to learn what settings David uses. It’s probably not what you think. We don’t want to give it away and ruin the surprise. Watch the video to find out.
8. What can I do with my spectacular bird images?
Get them printed! On metal, on canvas, on fine art paper. Here’s yet another coincidence: You can easily order prints online! We’ll send them to you for free, unless you live outside of the U.S. If you live in Mozambique, or Budapest. Then you have to pay. ORDER PRINTS NOW
What we cannot do:
We cannot clean up the bird droppings on your patio furniture.
We cannot prevent an unwanted influx of pigeons, seagulls, or vultures in your yard.
Thanks for reading! Questions or comments...email Jan@hornphoto.com